5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Purchase

I’ve been on a bit of a minimalist kick lately. There’s just something about cleaning out your closet that makes you evaluate every purchase you’ve made in the last calendar year.

I prefer to organize and deep clean first thing in the year. There’s something about cold weather that makes me want to nest in my home (probably because it’s too cold outside to go anywhere), it’s after the holidays, and it just feels like a perfect time for reflecting.

5 questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase from www.goingzerowaste.com #minimalism #ecofriendly #zerowaste

As a bonus, Marie Kondo’s tv show Tidying Up came out... so, I mean who wasn’t ready to declutter, organize and spark joy?

I’m pretty happy that the Tidying Up TV show involves no shopping minus gathering a few small boxes for drawer organization. I’m even happier that after following up with a few of the families that participated, their homes have stayed TIDY! 

This means they’re not running out and filling up their new found space - which is great!

In the past, I have definitely gone shopping after decluttering and felt excited that I had space to store all of my new belongings.

I never intentionally went out to shop and fill space, but because I had space I often allowed myself to shop, does that make sense?

I feel a lot of people fall into this mindset. I don’t think many people intentionally buy things they don’t want or don’t love. I think in the moment they think they want and love it, but only with time and space do they realize... they don’t. 

As a former shopaholic, I can tell you that’s how it was for me. I tended to love things in the moment but never really thought about them practically. 

In college, after I sold my books back to the book store, I’d take that money and spend it frivolously. I remember I bought a beautiful pair of heels that were 5” tall... do you know how practical it is to wear 5” heels without a platform? For me, it was not very practical. I wore them a few times, and that was it. 

My instinct was to run to the store for anything and everything I needed, instead of sitting with that want or need and thinking about it. I didn’t want to wait for a solution. I wanted to buy a solution RIGHT NOW which I think is an overall symptom of our society which relies a lot on instant gratification.

I try not to reflect on all of the money I could have saved had I been a bit wiser....

But, on top of all that, I didn’t value things. Things were not something I respected. I viewed things as disposable, mostly because I was buying disposable goods. But, disposable is 100% a mindset, and it’s not a very healthy one.  

5 questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase from www.goingzerowaste.com #minimalism #ecofriendly #zerowaste

1. does it fit my ethics?

This one right off the bat will eliminate A LOT of things I don’t need. I’m not saying every purchase I make is an ethical one, but I do try to make my purchases as ethical as possible.

And, if I need something so bad that I’m willing to sacrifice my ethics for it, then I KNOW it’s something that I NEED.

The most common instance of this scenario is jeans. In most designers ethical ones or not, I have a small waist and an x-large rear. I’m pear shaped, and trying to find pants that fit both areas of my body is a real challenge.

I often resort to buying jeans that aren’t the most ethical simply because they’re what fits.

Before going shopping, try to determine your ethics. Ask yourself if the things you’re about to purchase fit into those ethics.

  • Do you want things to be mostly plastic free?

  • What about slave labor?

  • What about ecological business practices?

I feel like this blog post could be a topic all to itself, but I have talked about this a little bit more in How to Make the BEST Choice for the environment. 

5 questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase from www.goingzerowaste.com #minimalism #ecofriendly #zerowaste

2. would I be willing to pay full price?

Because I do try to opt for ethical purchases, this often means shopping second hand or on sale, because ethical purchases can be really expensive.

Before you go shopping, try to identify how much money it hurts for you to spend? $20, $50, $200? I don’t know what your budget or spending habits are like but anything that costs $50 gives me serious pause. It makes me truly evaluate the item and whether or not I need it.  

I come across a lot of deals when I’m shopping second hand. I come across items I like, maybe an item that’s been on my list for a long time, and maybe that item isn’t quite perfect, but I find myself saying, “Oh, well it’s close to what I’m looking for, and it’s only $8”

Have you ever uttered the phrase, “It’s only X amount of dollars”? 

If you have, then you probably know that phrase means you don’t love it and you definitely DON’T need it.  

So, the first question I ask myself before making a purchase is, “Would I pay full price for this item or would I pay my sacrificial price for this item?” Ask yourself whichever number is higher, and if the answer is no, don’t buy it. 

5 questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase from www.goingzerowaste.com #minimalism #ecofriendly #zerowaste

3. do I need it?

This one is tough because it can be difficult to sort through what we need, a true want, and a temporary want. We want to make sure that we’re eliminating temporary wants because those are the ones that clutter our closets and drawers. 

For more info on this topic be sure to check out my post Why I Wait 30 Days Before Making a Purchase all about setting a personal buy-ban for yourself.

You can pinpoint a true want and need if you give yourself enough space. If you’re still thinking about something weeks or months later, then it’s probably a true want or need. 

5 questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase from www.goingzerowaste.com #minimalism #ecofriendly #zerowaste

4. is this for the person I am or the person I want to be?

Maybe you’ve waited 30 days or months, but still find yourself dreaming about that item. Is that a true want, probably. But, you also need to get real with yourself. Ask yourself the hard question. Is this item for the person I am or the person I want to be.

For instance, I love skirt suits. I LOVE them, but I don’t go to the type of meetings necessary for wearing skirt suits and always feel very out of place when I do wear them. So, no matter how much I want them, I know they’re for the person I want to be vs. the person I am.

In my mind, I’m also excellent at gardening and working out 4 times a week. In actuality, I am NONE of those things.

So, there’s no need for me to go overboard on gardening supplies or to buy 15 pairs of leggings. Owning a few pairs for the few times I do manage to workout before doing laundry is perfect for me.

Speaking of which, check out these 7 eco-friendly activewear brands!

5 questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase from www.goingzerowaste.com #minimalism #ecofriendly #zerowaste

5. what is the end plan?

The last thing I ask myself is about my end plan. Somehow framing the product in it’s full lifecycle beyond just, “I see it; I want it; I buy it.,” helps to create a story and a plan for my purchase.

Because everything you buy, at some point, has to leave your home. Ask yourself:

  • Is this an item worth passing down?

  • Is this an item I would repair or can be repaired?

  • Is this an item that can be recycled?

  • Is this an item that will be sent to the landfill?

  • Is this an item I could resell?

There’s no judgment from me on what the answers may be, but sometime’s it’s helpful to give more context to a purchase.

5 questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase from www.goingzerowaste.com #minimalism #ecofriendly #zerowaste

lastly:

Now, this isn’t a question, but I hope that you’ll wait for the perfect item. Sometimes, it’s just about having enough patience for that perfect item you’ve been looking for to arrive. And when it does, you will be so filled with joy!

Have you asked yourself any of these questions while shopping? Are there any tips and tricks you have to reduce the amount you shop?

Why I Wait 30 Days Before I Make a Purchase

I wait 30 days before making any purchase. I talk about this pretty often on my Instagram feed because I think it’s really important.

I love supporting sustainable businesses, but I also love not buying things because not buying something is one of the most sustainable choices you can make.

Why I wait 30 days before I make a purchase and you should to from www.goingzerowaste.com

I for one am super susceptible to marketing, and I think a lot of us can be. Pretty much every time I find a new TV show, I’m trying to buy their entire wardrobe. Have you seen Timeless because I want all of Lucy’s sweaters. What about Jane the Virgin because I want to live in Petra’s closet.

Marketers have done a great job making us believe we need a new product for every problem or want that we have. Like I don’t need baby blue hot pants - but I WANT SOME.

When I put some separation between me and my want often even a few days, the want dies down and I can make a more rational decision.

When we impulse buy, we tend to forget that we have simple solutions are all around us - it just takes a bit of creative thinking or looking through your drawer to realize you already had a navy blue sweater.

You can read more about this under the header Know Thy Wardrobe in the post 6 Tips for Secondhand Shopping.

Recently, I wanted an electric kettle for my office.

See, I like tea. A lot. And, I was working at the kitchen table instead of my office because I was close to the stove/kettle/tea.

When I’m in my new office space, if I were to go downstairs and make myself a cup of tea everytime I wanted tea, I’d spend all of my time downstairs instead of working.

An electric kettle would have solved this problem, but before I bought one, I decided to wait 30 days to see if I could come up with a better solution - AND I DID!

I had a double insulated wine bottle I have never used before and it's PERFECT.

It holds an entire french press worth of tea and holds heat better than any other bottle I have (I think because of how skinny it's neck is)

It takes me around two hours to drink this whole thing, and at that point, I feel like it makes sense to go downstairs grab a snack or stretch and make put the kettle on to make a new batch.

I would highly encourage anyone to adopt the practice of waiting before buying!

The next time you want something, just tell yourself to wait until next month. Don’t write it down cause if you forget, then clearly you didn’t need it in the first place.

For more tips, watch the video below.

Microplastics: What Are They and What Can We Do About Them?

Microplastics - I like to think they’re the buzzword of the year. Which would probably be grossly inaccurate, but I do think recognition of this problem is picking up steam after several damning studies have been released.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste

What studies, you ask?

the problem with plastic:

There’s a lot to process up there. Plastic has currently found its way through the food chain. Without any long term studies, we really don’t know what this is doing to our bodies.

Plastic is a known endocrine disruptor, often masquerading as estrogen in the body, which interferes with our hormones/bodies communication system.

Synthetic estrogens are known to cause problems like obesity, cancer, and infertility. You can read more in this study.

Beyond plastic’s hormone interfering properties, another study was released where plastic acts as a sponge for bacteria.

“Some laboratory studies have found that microplastics can interfere with feeding, digestion, and reproduction in several aquatic species.

“While microplastics may physically harm organisms, there’s also concern that they could leach chemicals such as plasticizers, UV stabilizers, flame retardants, and colorants. In addition to what’s in them, microplastics have also been found to attract pesticides and other toxic chemicals in water.

“Mason says her team has found environmental contaminants that are known carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in higher concentrations in plastic particles relative to the water.” Read More

Check out this blog post on the problem with plastic.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste

what’s a microplastic?

A microplastic is an extremely small piece of plastic on average 3mm-5mm. Some plastics are born microplastics and others become microplastics.

See, plastic doesn’t ever go away. Plastic won’t biodegrade. It won’t turn back into soil. Instead, over time, it becomes brittle and it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces until it’s so small it’s a microplastic or nanoplastic.

But, some plastic starts out already small like glitter and microbeads. Some of the other prevalent forms of microplastics are tires and microfibers from clothing.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste

glitter:

Yep, glitter is plastic. Glitter face masks, sunscreens, festival makeup looks…. this is all plastic. When you go to wash all of that glitter off of your body, it goes straight down the drain and into the water ways. Because, glitter is so small, it can’t be filtered out making it’s way out to the ocean.

SOLUTION:

First, ask yourself if you really need to use glitter? I’m not sure I’ve every been in a situation, where I just HAD to use glitter. But, they do make biodegradable glitter which is made from cellulose so it breaks down very quickly once you was it off. This one donates portions of the sales to Greenpeace International.

microbeads:

Microbeads have mostly been ban. In large part, it would be pretty difficult to find products with microbeads in them now, but they were a major contributor to microplastics in the ocean.

I was surprised to learn the first state to ban microbeads was Illinois back in 2014. In 2017 a ban passed at the federal level adding the US to a long list of countries that have banned the bead. Read More

SOLUTION:

Opt for microbead free products which should be very easy, since most products aren’t manufactured with them anymore.

tires:

Now, this one absolutely shocked me. I was attending the Sustainability Forum at the Phoenix Open when Dr. Leyla Acaroglu an industrial designer and sociologist dropped this piece of knowledge that tires are the number one source of microplastic pollution in the ocean.

According the the Guardian, “68,000 tonnes of microplastics from tyre tread abrasion are generated in the UK every year, with between 7,000 and 19,000 tonnes entering surface waters.”

Our tires go bald due to the friction of driving. As they go bald, they lose tiny bits of tires which are left on the roadways which eventually make their way to the storm drains which lead out to the sea.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste

SOLUTION:

This one is so tough. Driving less is the best solution. But, even if you’re taking public busses or biking there’s still a problem with tires shedding microplastic pieces. It’s probably time for the tire to get a makeover… which it has. Michelin has just introduced a biodegradeable and 3-D printed tire that would last forever. Let’s hope this becomes a reality!

microfibers:

Lastly, microfibers which are shed into the water ways every time we wash our synthetic clothing like polyester, acrylic, and fleece.

It’s becoming more and more popular to create clothing out of recycled plastic water bottles which results in microfiber pollution in the waterways.

A study by Plymouth University found that a single load of clothes could release up to 700,000 microplastic particles.

SOLUTION:

This is a multi-pronged solution.

1) Wash Less: When it comes to washing your clothes try to stretch washes. Just because you’ve worn something once doesn’t make it dirty. If my clothes don’t smell, then I wear them… until they do smell. And, only then do I put them in the washing machine.

2) Air it out: A great way to extend the life of your clothes is let them air out. After I’ve worn a shirt, I like to turn it inside out and spray it with this mixture, and hang it up in the open air like on the door frame of the closet

I don’t shove the piece back into my closet, I give it room to breath so air can circulate all around it.

3) Opt for Natural Fibers: When I’m shopping, I try to buy clothing made from natural fibers. It can be really hard since spandex is in almost everything, but I’m looking for at least 90% natural fibers when I check the tags on clothing.

For me, I just can’t stand synthetics on my skin. I’ve found that polyester and acrylic fabrics, which are plastic, aren’t breathable. They’re not able to regulate body temperature well.

These types of fabrics don’t keep you very warm in the winter and they can’t keep you cool in the summer. They make you sweat more and ultimately have to do more laundry - my LEAST favorite thing.

When you’re shopping look for natural fibers. Here’s a list of non-plastic fibers. Most of these fabrics have pros and cons. If you’re interested in a whole blog post about each of the fabrics I can do that, but for the sake of not making this a novel, I’m just going to list them.

I’m sure I’m missing a few, so please let me know in the comments section.

  • Cotton

  • Wool

  • Silk

  • Hemp

  • Linen

  • Rayon

  • Viscose

  • Bamboo

  • Lyocell (Tencel)

  • Modal

  • Cupro

4) Take Preventative Measures:

I do not have a 100% plastic-free wardrobe. Especially when it comes to undies and workout gear. Check out this post to learn more about sustainable and ethical work out clothing. I speak a bit about the polyester conundrum when it comes to work out clothing.

In this case, I try to take preventative measures by using something to catch the microfibers. There are several different options like the guppyfriend or a microfiber ball.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste

q&a:

I recently sourced questions from my Instagram stories on microplastics and I’m going to do my best to answer them and give you some solutions on ways that you can help reduce your contribution to microplastics.

what about shoes made from recycled plastic water bottles?

I definitely don’t have as much of a problem with items that aren’t going to be put through the washing machine over and over again. I personally don’t love the idea of wearing plastic shoes though. I’m not sayihng I’d never wear a pair.

But, I’d be afraid they’d make your feet sweat and stink. Did you know poly actually makes sweat stink more? You can read about it here.

can you tell just by looking at a fabric if it’s poly or going to cause microplastic pollution?

Not normally, it can be really tricky, so I just to be safe always check the label. Acrylic and fleece jackets are two of the worst offenders so those are the two items I’d avoid at all costs.

what natural fibers do you go for and what are your fav stores to get them from?

If I’m buying secondhand, I don’t particularly care what the fabric is as long as it’s on the list above. If I’m shopping first hand, I opt for tencel (a zero waste fabric!), modal, silk, and ethical wool. I also look for non-toxic dyes. Amour Vert is one of my favorite shops (big surprise, right?) because I feel really confident about whatever I buy there being non-toxic and sustainable.

I will work on a full blog post all about this though.

What should I do with old clothes that I’ve stopped wearing because they aren’t made of natural fibers?

There’s not much you can do with them. They’re not very valuable, and it’s not really possible to turn them into other products at this time. But, that could be changing. A company in Hong Kong just found a way to infinitely recycle polyester so we’ll see!

What about undergarments?

I wrote a whole blog post about ethical and sustainable underwear brands for you to check out.

Swim suit alternatives?

This falls in the same category as workout gear. It’s pretty much unavoidable, but typically we don’t put swimsuits through rough spincycles in our washing machines.

I haven’t found any data on hand washing vs. washing machines, but I believe the crux of the problem lies with the washing machine. While I’m sure microfibers shed from hand washing, I don’t think it would be as extreme as it is with machine washing.

Organic cotton vs. conventional?

If I’m buying first hand, I always try to opt for organic cotton. You can read more in this post: All Your Questions About Eco-Friendly Cotton Answered


I hope this article has provided a little bit of insight about microplastics, microfibers, and ways that you can tackle the problem.

Of course, I can’t let you go without saying you should contact your representative about this issue! Send them an email, fax, or give them a call. This is a super hard subject to tackle. Is it possible that we see polyester, acrylic, or fleece banned from the market place? What about non-biodegradable glitter? Maybe all washers should come with microplastic filters on the machines?

I’m not entirely sure, what solutions could help prevent the problem even more, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to let your representative know that it’s a subject you feel passionate about.